Getting Real About What Enterprise Architects Can Offer

Loraine Lawson

Back in the good old days, when the newspaper still carried more than six help wanted ads, my husband and I had a Sunday morning tradition of reading the technology section out loud, with an eye toward mocking the ones obviously written by IT-clueless human resources people.


You know the ads I'm talking about: They're often for something like a business analyst, net admin or Web programmer, but they include a hodgepodge of requirements that made you wonder if this person would singlehandedly be doing everything in the IT department. Usually it went something like this:


Wanted: IT professional with 10 or more years of experience programming in COBOL, Java, C++, .Net, HTML, PHP, PERL, Adobe (whatever that means), Palm OS or LegoScript, and Unix. Five plus years experience in network security, Cisco, SQL and Oracle. Must be proficient in Microsoft Word and Excel. Black belt in Six Sigma or TQM experience. Web design a plus. Preference given to candidates with MBA or engineers. Pay scale $36,000 to $40,000.


I'd read it aloud and we'd laugh and laugh.


After seeing that IT Business Edge had posted a sample SOA enterprise architect job description (salary: $55,000 to $63,000-'nuff said), I spent about 15 scanning's EA classifieds, just to get an idea of what companies are asking for these days. Based on my totally unscientific survey, I surmised that:


  1. For some reason, being proficient in Microsoft Word and Excel remains an essential job requirement, no matter where you work in IT.
  2. Although there's a hodgepodge of requirements for enterprise architect jobs, they tend to fall into either requirements that are more business- and research-focused or more technically focused.


I've been thinking about the enterprise architect job since last week, when I did a podcast with David Linthicum, who blogs about SOA for InfoWorld. Since I'm definitely not trying to be any kind of "thought leader" and I'm accustomed to being the one asking questions, I was pretty uneasy about the whole experience.


As it turned out, he kindly stuck to subjective questions, such as what's surprised me and what's disappointed me in my two years of covering integration. As I told Linthicum, integration is one of the most difficult topics I've covered, and that includes my time covering planning and zoning issues in Kentucky and Oklahoma. It's not as exciting as IT security-or covering the police in the Twilight Zone-esque Edmond, Oklahoma - but it is always challenging and there are still unexpected twists.

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Apr 9, 2009 3:05 AM Royce Gilbert Royce Gilbert  says:

Insightful article. I think you have hit the nail on the head. An EA requires a blend of technical know how, ivory tower political savvy and business knowledge, along with the ability to envision the big picture, communicate it to both IT and Business, and possess the leadership and project management skills to bring it into reality. Difficult to write a position description for that, and even more difficult to fill, but it is one that is desperately needed in so many IT departments.

Apr 15, 2009 2:03 AM Tammy Kendall Tammy Kendall  says: in response to Royce Gilbert

Could not agree more....i have held these postions in the past and they are very misunderstood by many companies, you need to, in many cases, sell the value of what you do in order for folks to get it.  also these positions do command a senior salary.


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